The notes that come through on this job are comprehensive in the extreme. Update after update comes through. I scroll down, reading it all out to Rae as she drives, the medical history, social aspects, interventions made, comments from the community health team, latterly the doctor.
‘Hat size?’ says Rae, turning into the street. ‘Star sign?’
There are so many people of different ages outside in the garden or inside, milling around the various rooms, it feels like we’re crashing a family party. From the accents and skin tones I would guess they’re of North African origin. Everyone’s pleased to see us, thanking us profusely – so much so you’d think we were taking the patient away for good rather than a routine admission to hospital.
A way is cleared for us to the front room where the patient is sitting in an armchair waiting. He has enormous gravitas. In his bright, orange print shirt and purple trousers, he looks like the elder statesman of the family. Even though he’s quite frail, he still manages a welcoming smile as I introduce us and crouch down in front of his chair. I half-expect him to lay a hand on my shoulder and the crowd that has gathered in the doorway behind us to applaud.
‘So – hello!’ I begin with a flourish. ‘We’ve been told quite a bit already – the reason we’re taking you to hospital, the history of this and that. But first things first. How do we pronounce your name?’
He carries on smiling, but frowns a little.
‘Aleef? Aleef-ay? I’m not sure. How do you say it?’
The smile straightens out. The patient looks off to the side, to an elderly woman who’s standing there with a carrier bag of meds. She comes forward and lays a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
It’s an unexpected turn of events, and early on, too.
‘Look. Let me show you.’
I hold out the clipboard, and point out the name I’ve written in caps on the report sheet, copied down from the notes control sent through. I spell it out.
‘A-L-I-F-E. How do you pronounce that?’
The patient stares at the form, then at me.‘Alfie’ he says.